EPA calls the chemical a “probably human carcinogen,” and California’s Proposition 65, the state law governing toxic chemical exposure in consumer products, classifies 1,4 dioxane as a known carcinogen.
P&G’s decision follows pressure from environmental groups and a lawsuit from a nonprofit. The chemical has been linked in animal studies to increased risk of breast cancer, according to Women’s Voices for the Earth, which has been calling on P&G to remove the carcinogen.
In November 2011, the women’s environmental health advocacy group published Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in your Cleaning Products?, the results of a study that sent 20 cleaning products to a lab for independent testing. The results showed 1,4-dioxane at 89 parts per million in Tide Free & Gentle and 63 ppm in Tide.
Following the report, As You Sow, an Oakland-based nonprofit and shareholder advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against Procter & Gamble for exceeding the level of 1,4 dioxane that products are allowed to contain without a warning level under Proposition 65, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Additionally, Groovy Green Livin blogger Lori Alper began a Change.org petition in February 2012, asking P&G to strip 1,4 dioxane from Tide detergents. The petition received more than 78,000 signatures.
On Jan. 24, a Superior Court Judge signed the consent judgment on the case, in which P&G agreed to reformulate its detergents to reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 25 parts per million, Women’s Voices for the Earth says.
P&G will complete the reformulation process by September. According to Women’s Voices for the Earth, it’s unlikely that old versions of the product will remain on the shelves for long after September, and while the consent judgment only applies to California, P&G is likely to distribute the new reformulated product nationwide.
The Tide Free & Gentle website shows a picture of a baby and touts the detergent as a “great clean that’s gentle on your skin.”
In 2010, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended that Seventh Generation either modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s household cleaning and laundry products after P&G challenged the products’ health, safety and ingredient claims.